ACC Man's ACC Tournament Preview

Well ACC fans, it's that time of the year again...when we see if all our hard work has paid off and when one more loss can end your season. As we gear up for the ACC Tournament, there are a host of interesting storylines unfolding. With no less than a handful of teams having aspirations and ability to get to Minneapolis, this year's tournament should provide plenty of hotly contested games with much to prove or reprove. Below I have listed on a team by team basis the status and stakes each team is playing for in the ACC Tournament.

UNC After ascending to No. 1 in the national polls, the Heels have turned south and are starting to look very vulnerable to teams willing to out quick and out hustle them. Team chemistry appears fragile with Forte assuming too much of the offensive load. Could have wrapped up a No. 1 seed with win over Duke, but will probably have to win ACC Tourney to get that now. Potential rematches with Clemson, UVa, and Duke ( who all beat the Heels down the stretch) have interesting implications.

DUKE Boozerless Devils amazed with dominating performance against UNC in season finale. While complementary players need to fulfill roles, Battier's consistency is unparalled; it is Jason Williams who makes ( or breaks ) the Devils-when he's on, they are unbeatable, when he's off, they become just another good team. Potential rematch against hot UMd. in semis could be the game of the tournament! Should be No. 1 seed in East if UNC doesn't win tourney, but likely No. 1 somewhere no matter how they fare in the tournament.

U Md. Debatably, the hottest team in he country right now. May have learned some tough lessons during season and may be that all important "peaking at the right time". ACC Tourney provides chance to show just how well they are playing and winning it could get them a No.2 seed in the NCAAs. In any event, they've rediscovered confidence to be able to play with the nation's elite and are primed for a deep run in the NCAAs.

UVa.

The Jeckyl and Hyde of the ACC. When playing in rhythm can obviously beat any team in the country...but have not shown ability to sustain momentum for enough games to win either tournament. Undefeated on neutral courts this year, the ACC Tourney should test ( and break ) that streak. Should be a 4 or 5 seed in the NCAAs no matter how they do in ACC Tourney; where they could be giant killers or first round upset victim. Potential rematch with UNC in semis will be interesting test of who can dictate game tempo.

TECH Would like to believe they're a lock for NCAAs but high number of losses including season ending "bad" loss to FSU makes me think otherwise. Earlier key wins over UCLA and UK have to be put into perspective when neither opponent was playing well. Quarters win over UVa. may not be all that impressive since they'd be beating a team they already beat twice....so jackets may need to upset UNC in semis to assure bid; otherwise, much to sweat out on selection Sunday.

WAKE

Everybody I talk with says "lock" for the NCAAs, but I say bubble. Have only one win over ACC's top 4 and that was UVa. in early January-can't rest laurels on early season win over Kansas. That being said, this team has enough talent to win not only ACC Tourney, but could surface in Minneapolis... Unfortunately seems to lack killer instinct and offensive consistency which has plagued Deacs for years. Tough quarter match up with Terps and a blowout loss could leave them shaky come Sunday.

STATE

Another big disappointment for Sendek and Pack. Don't feel they've played well all year, but have caught other teams on off nights to occasionally look impressive. Have to win ACC Tourney to see postseason...imagine them beating Duke and UMd. and losing title game and not being NIT eligible ( Oh well, Pack fans didn't want to go to NIT again anyway). Should be one and done ( vs. Duke ), but remember 1997 when Pack almost pulled a miracle.

FSU

Noles are admittedly improved from mid-season, but don't have the fire power to compete with ACC heavyweights. Will probably get by Clemson, but should be fodder for UNC team trying to regain momentum. Winning the ACC Tourney would avoid unusual distinction of basketball team winning less games than the football team.

CLEMSON

Tigers had their moment in the sun beating ( then ) No. 1 UNC. Have struggled, if not regressed since and probably won't get by FSU in play-in game. In any event, one last chance to see Will Solomon do his thing... I do wonder how good he'd be if surrounded by decent talent.

OK, there you have it...so let the games begin.

Oh yeah, predictions you ask...Well, I'm going to go out on a slight limb and say the winner of the Wake-Md. game will go on and win the tournament; injury to Boozer and inconsistency of UNC and UVa. seems to give Terps or Deacs a reachable path to the championship.

ACC Man